Homeland Stupidity

Supreme Court: State can’t take property without notice

The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 today that the state of Arkansas was wrong to take away a Little Rock man’s home due to non-payment of property taxes.

In the case, the state had mailed certified letters to the address, which had been returned undeliverable, and posted a notice in the newspaper of the impending taking, after Gary Jones stopped paying property taxes. The Supreme Court said that the state didn’t do enough to contact Jones and notify him of the action.

Noting that the certified mail sent to 717 North Bryan had been returned because Mr. Jones was not there to sign for it, the chief justice wrote, “In response to the returned form suggesting that Jones had not received notice that he was about to lose his property, the state did — nothing.”

Joining the chief justice were Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. Their ruling overturned decisions by the Arkansas Supreme Court and a lower state court, which had found against Mr. Jones in holding that the state had met its obligations. — New York Times

As it turns out, Jones apparently forgot about it. His mortgage company had been making the property tax payments for him, and when his house was paid off, he had never sent in any further property tax payments.

The Times has more details on the case, but the upshot is that this decision will make it much more difficult for a state to seize the property of people who fail for whatever reason to pay property taxes.